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'A LOT OF NEW FACES'

By Pat Perkins

Observer Staff Writer

After two-straight winning seasons, its time for someone else to lead the Eastern Oregon Mountaineers mens basketball team.

Especially on offense.

I figured out that of the 70 points that we averaged last year, we have back (Jeremy) McLean at 5.8 points a game, (Jonathan) Stoddard at 5.3 points a game and (Jason) Tankersley at 0.8, and a bunch of the JV guys, coach Art Furman said.

Thats about a dozen points back. Going into the season, you definitely have some questions about whos going to score points for you. Theres just so much inexperience at the four-year college level.

The team will start to get experience at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Quinn Coliseum in an exhibition game against the Australian All-Stars. The regular season begins at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at home against Walla Walla.

This years roster is a mixture of role players from last year, promoted JV players and transfer students, with a point guard who played for Furman two years ago thrown in.

In fact, Jerome Toby, who sat out last year for personal reasons, will be counted on as a team leader.

Were going to have to get a lot of leadership from Jerome, especially at that point position. I feel pretty confidence in what he can do, Furman said.

Its not like this group is a rag-tag bunch incapable of playing NAIA basketball, though.

On paper, we definitely go into this year with limited experience, Furman said. With the JV players, Id like to think that its not everybody new. And with the six transfer students, all those transfers played in college and got college game experience.

The player with the most experience is junior guard McLean (6-foot), who has 51 games under his belt, including 24 as a starter last season. He ran the point for much of the season and had a 78-38 assist to turnover ratio.

He doesnt make mistakes with the ball, Furman said. His shots and offense are better, and hes probably one of the better perimeter defensive players.

Stoddard, also a junior, isnt that far behind in experience. He has played 48 games for Furman and started five last season. The 6-5 forward can score inside, but needs to improve his defense.

If he gets it done defensively hes probably going to play more minutes, Furman said.

Toby, a 5-8 senior, averaged 2.9 assists in 1999-2000 as a backup point guard.

Hes got more confidence, Furman said. Since hes a little closer to the floor, he can bother people defensively.

Those starters are joined by Fort Lewis College transfer Luke Neibling and Neil Collins, a JV player last season.

Neibling will play on the wing with McLean, but he is a natural guard at 6-2, a big guard for Eastern. Collins, a 6-4 forward, will play inside with Stoddard and has made strides in his rebounding.

The four other players from the JV squad have one advantage over the five other transfer students. They have played Furmans system, which emphasizes defense, rebounding and perimeter shooting.

So the first two wings off the bench are Nate Cauffman, the MVP of the JV team, and Kevin Hayes, a shooter who gets in your face defensively, according to Furman.

Scott Collins, no relation to Neil, will back up Toby at point. Collins came to Eastern from North Seattle College. Hes showing he wants to pick up all the nuances of what we do, Furman said.

Another transfer who will be quick off the bench is 6-3 guard-forward Trevor Exline, who came from Napa Valley College. Hes tough to keep out of the starting lineup. He might be one of the defensive stoppers, Furman said.

Tankersley, a 6-4 forward, played 17 games last season. Six-5 forward Ty Miller, a transfer from Skagit Valley College, is the teams only left-handed player. Brad Williams, a 6-6 freshman post, may be Easterns best, true low-post defensive player.

Sophomore center Doug Hall provides another big body inside. Ryan Martin, 6-8 senior, is learning to play inside. And 6-5 forward Derek Howard has been out of commission since October with a concussion.

SEASON STARTS SATURDAY AT HOME

After two weekends of preparatory games against each other and the alumni, the Eastern Oregon Mountaineers mens basketball team is ready to play against some outside, live action.

The season starts at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Quinn Coliseum against the Pro Hoops Australia All-Star team. The regular season begins at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at Quinn against Walla Walla.

Australia beat Eastern 93-87 last year, despite the Mountaineers shooting 64 percent from 3-point range.

This years Australian team has already beaten Loyola Marymount 67-65 on Nov. 2, with Australia guard Clayton Powdrill hitting a lay-up with three seconds left. Powdrill scored a game-high 23 points and shot 9-for-17 from the field.

Australia forward Derrick Harris scored 18 points on 8-for-16 shooting. He also had 13 rebounds.

Walla Walla enters Sundays game 2-1, including a 92-87 win over Easterns Cascade Collegiate Conference rival, Western Baptist. Forward Hans Tulip is averaging more than 20 points per game and scored 34 points in a 121-108 win over Simpson College.

Eastern is picked to finish seventh in the 10-team Cascade Conference.

 
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